The urban myth is that American cop cars are packed with a mysterious collection of performance parts that eclipse anything you can find at your local dealer. In reality, history's highest-performing cop cars are certainly quick, even if their ultimate performance is a little less dramatic than the lore would suggest.
2006–2013 Dodge Charger Police Package
When the Corvette-powered Caprice ended production in 1996, fans of high-performance cop cars were left with nothing but the lame-duck 250-hp Ford Crown Vic "Police Interceptor." Although popular then, and still today, the Crown Vic can intercept a truck filled with doughnuts and not much else. Without no rear-drive competition from Chrysler or Chevrolet, Ford owned upward of 80 percent of the police car market for years.
Then, in 2005, Dodge launched the new Charger, a rear-drive, Hemi V-8 muscle sedan. Just one year later, the Police Package arrived to strike fear into the heart of every speeder. The best of the early ones had a 340-hp V-8 and could hit 60 mph in 6 seconds flat. Today's even more powerful 370-hp Charger Police Package does the deed in 5.3 seconds and looks meaner than ever thanks to its menacing prow.
1983–1993 Ford Mustang SSP
In the early 1980s, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) requested a high-performance police package car that could reel in the perps at serious highway speeds. The result was the 1982 CHP Mustang—essentially Mustang GT components in the Mustang's most conservative notchback bodywork.
In 1983, the Special Service Package Mustang (same basic car) went into national use. Under the hood was the legendary 5.0-liter V-8 paired to a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual. The quickest ones came in 1990–1993, when Ford had its speedometers certified right up to 160 mph. Ford made about 15,000 of these awesome cop cruisers. Today, well-used SSP Mustangs are the perfect project-car platform.
1969 Dodge Polara Pursuit
Chrysler practically owned the market for cop cars in the performance-heavy 1960s. The 1965 Dodge Polara Pursuit, for example, packed the mighty 413-cid V-8 that could do a quarter-mile in just 15 seconds, very quick for the time. But the real monster came a few years later.
The 1969 Polara, with the 375-hp 440 Magnum under the hood, was a beast. It was like a four-door Plymouth Road Runner muscle car in plain clothes. According to the book Dodge, Plymouth & Chrysler Police Cars 1956–1978 by Edwin J. Sanow and John L. Bellah, the '69 Polara Pursuit for decades held the record for quickest top speed of any Chrysler cop car at the company's Chelsea Proving Grounds high-banked oval—147 mph. That's a remarkable speed for an American sedan today, much less one from the '60s.
1991–2002 Chevrolet Camaro B4C
Chevy was not content to allow Ford to own the special pursuit market with the SSP Mustang. So the company developed a hot version of the Camaro expressly for high-performance police duty. The package, code name B4C, was basically a Z/28 Camaro hidden in the bodywork of a lower-performance RS Camaro.
The 1991–1992 B4C cars came at the tail end of the 3rd-generation Camaro production and were equipped with Tuned-Port Injection (TPI) 305- or 350-cid V-8s. But when the 4th generation Camaro arrived in 1993 packing the new 275-hp LT1 350 V-8 and an optional 6-speed manual, the B4C became a real monster, one capable of acceleration to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds and a top speed well north of 150 mph. With that level of performance, the Camaro became the most potent American cop car of the 1990s. By 2001, just as the 4th gen Camaro was about to depart, the 310-hp LS1 V-8 became part of the package, making this already hot cop special a supercar.